Understanding the rules of life

Bioscience for an integrated understanding of health

Category: CASE Studentships

Host-microbe interactions – an innovative approach to health of the nervous system

Project No. 2115

Primary Supervisor

Dr Marina Ezcurra – University of Kent


Dr David Weinkove – CEO at Magnitude Biosciences


Recent research suggests that gut microbes can affect many aspects of human physiology, including function of the brain, impacting cognitive function, mental health and neurodegenerative diseases.

Understanding the mechanisms underlying host-microbiome effects on the brain can result in the development of interventions to improve neuronal health
The microbiome can be manipulated through diet, prebiotics, probiotics and faecal transplants, but presents problems in achieving predictable outcomes on microbial communities and host health. Alternatively, bypassing the microbiome and instead utilising microbial compounds offers a more controlled approach. The microbiome exerts much of its impact on host physiology through the secretion of thousands of metabolites that target host genes and modulate host functions. For example, Akkermansia muciniphila is a beneficial microbe inversely associated with obesity, diabetes and cardiometabolic diseases. The mechanism of action is not gut colonisation, but rather the production of a bacterial protein, Amuc_1100, which is a strong candidate for drug development.

To accelerate this line of research and identify novel bacterial molecules with beneficial effects on health, the Ezcurra lab uses a new model system to study host-microbiome interactions using the model organism C. elegans combined with an experimental microbiome. This model enables us to address important questions about how the microbiome affects host health in a way that is difficult to do in mammalian model systems. Magnitude Biosciences has developed high-throughput automated approaches to monitor C. elegans health beyond the capacity of traditional academic labs. The combined expertise and approaches of the Ezcurra lab and Magnitude Biosciences enables a unique innovative academic-industrial collaboration with the goal to identify microbiome-based interventions with translational potential to promote health of the nervous system.